(First of two parts)
BY JOSE RENE GAYO
The sugar industry in the Island of Negros has determined the fortunes of sugar landowners and the poverty of its farm workers commonly called the “sacadas.” Most of the sacadas are migrant workers who came to the island from neighboring provinces and towns. They usually come during the harvest season and go back home after the work has been done. In the province of Negros Occidental, most of the sacadas come from the province of Antique. This has been their lot for generations now from the start of the sugar boom in the province from the mid-19th century up to today.
This is the story of Salvador “Badong” Socrates. I first heard it in Puerto Princesa when I used to go at least once a month for five years prior to my move to Bacolod. This story needs to be told here in Negros to recognize a Negrense, who has done much for his country.
Badong, as he is fondly called in Palawan, is the son of Francisco Socrates, a “sacada” and later rose to the rank of supervisor at the Central Azucarera de La Carlota, then owned by the Elizalde family in Manila.
Franciso arrived in La Carlota in his late teens to work in the sugarcane fields of the company in the 1920s. Later, he went back to his hometown of Cuyo in Palawan to marry Ines Magbanua Paredes and they had six children. The eldest is Nicasio followed by Rizalina, Salvador (Badong), Sofia, Socorro (Ching), and Severino (Binoy).
Badong Socrates was born on March 13, 1933 in La Carlota City, Negros Occidental. In 1940, while World War II was raging, his parents decided to take the entire family, except Nicasio, the eldest, to Cuyo Palawan where Francisco and Ines came from. There the young Badong completed his elementary and high school studies. He completed his Grade 1 to 4 at the Miller School while Grades 5 and 6 were at the Cuyo Central School. He finished high school at the St. Joseph Academy, as the class salutatorian. He was then automatically accepted at the University of the Philippines by virtue of his being a salutatorian. There, he went through the then two-year Associate in Arts course preparatory to law school, and eventually obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree at the UP College of Law in 1958.
Although his father then had risen to the job of a manager at the La Carlota Sugar Central, money was scarce, and during his first year in college, Badong had to live with an aunt, Nay Clara Paredes.
On his second year in Manila, Badong was invited by another aunt, Mother Consuelo Magbanua Dangan, an Augustian Recollect nun, to move to Sta. Rita College, where he just had to pay half for his board and lodging in exchange for his working as their janitor. He would clean the halls and corridors of St. Rita before going to school.
He lived for three years in St. Rita College – Manila. In his last two years in Law School, he moved to the residence of the Sandoval family, upon the invitation of his classmate, Job Sandoval.
Badong passed the 1958 Bar Examinations (results of which came out the following year) and took his Lawyer’s Oath in 1959. He worked for a brief time at the Chipeco Law Office at Escolta, Manila and then he joined the staff of Palawan Congressman Gaudencio Abordo.
In 1960, he married Elsa San Juan Macalinao, and moved back to Cuyo, where he practiced his profession. His son, Victorino Dennis was born the following year, 1961, and was immediately followed by a daughter, Maria Nancy in 1962.
In 1963, Badong moved with his young family to Puerto Princesa that same year he entered the world of Palawan politics as the vice-gubernatorial candidate of Neil Setias, who was running for governor. Both lost in the election.
Undeterred, he run again as Independent – Nacionalista candidate for governor in 1967. This time, he won against three seasoned politicians. At 34, he was one of the youngest governors in the country.
At 35, he became a widower, with the passing away of his wife, Elsa, from breast cancer. The following year, he married Dr. Natividad Quicho.
Considered a visionary by some, Badong was a planner, an implementor, a pioneer. He had the foresight, the ability to envision what Palawan may become, and should become. He planned not for the short term but for the long term. His was a 10-year development plan for Palawan, drafted in 1968. (To be continued)
*The author is the executive director of St. John’s Institute, was the founding dean of the School of Management, University of Asia and the Pacific (1996-2004), and executive director of PAREF Southridge School in Alabang (2005-2008).